Blackhawks

Plans for new practice facility please Bulls

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Plans for new practice facility please Bulls

LOS ANGELES In a long-rumored move, the Bulls, in conjunction with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuels office, officially announced plans to build a new practice facility in the city. The facility will be built on a parking lot adjacent to the United Center -- Parking Lot J, which sits east of the United Center across South Wood Street between Monroe and Madison Streets -- and the organization will move in prior to the 2014-15 season.

"I am pleased that the Bulls are moving their practice facilities into the City of Chicago and continuing the great work revitalizing the entire neighborhood around the United Center," said Mayor Emanuel. "The Bulls are an iconic championship team and a source of pride for our city. Their future, and the future of the West Side, is bright."

Added Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf: "Todays announcement is the latest example of our longstanding commitment to the City of Chicago and to our fans.

Investing in a modern facility for our players and coaches will help us to achieve our teams number one goal winning championships while also playing an important role in the citys ongoing redevelopment efforts in our West Side neighborhood," he continued. Mayor Emanuel has done a tremendous job promoting investment in the City of Chicago. The Mayor stressed that the Bulls brand is important to the city, nationally and internationally, and that the Bulls represent the spirit and competitive grit of Chicago. He thought centralizing our team assets inside the city limits would be a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to Chicago. We had been contemplating how to address the growing demands on our current practice facility for awhile, so the Mayors timing and ours made sense.

Chimed in Bulls, COO Michael Reinsdorf: We share Mayor Emanuels vision for the West Side and are proud that this new facility will be a major part of that vision, said President and COO Michael Reinsdorf. Our current practice facility presented some limitations for us and as we looked to invest in the teams future, we recognized the importance of also investing in our community.

Meanwhile, before the Bulls practiced in advance of Saturday night's game against the Clippers, the team expressed excitement about the news. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau referenced the issue of Chicagos notorious traffic being a positive benefit of having a practice facility in the city, as players will likely opt to live in the city, instead of the north suburbs, which is convenient to Deerfields Berto Center, built in 1992 and named after team chairman Jerry Reinsdorfs late assistant, Sheri L. Berto.

Were excited about it. I think its going to be a state-of-the-art facility. I think it gives our players the best chance at improvement, he said prior to the teams practice on the campus of UCLA. Obviously we love the United Center and now we think the practice facility will be second to none.

The Bertos been great and its served us well for a long time, and we all enjoy living out there. The big issue is basically the traffic on gameday, so its become more problematic for us. The Blackhawks moved down there, it seemed to work well for them. I think at this point, when you take everything into consideration, it makes the most sense to be downtown and were excited about it, continued the coach, who will face a team coached by his predecessor, Vinny Del Negro. The Berto Center, at the time when they built that, I think it was the first one and it still, in many ways, serves us well now. The court area is fantastic, but I think as the staffs have grown and things have changed, youd like a little more space. But its a great facility and for us, the main thing has been the traffic and were looking forward to being downtown having a great facility. Weve put a lot of research into it, so we think its going to be an incredible facility.

Added Taj Gibson: "Its going to be great.

"Get more sleep on game days instead of going through all that traffic. Hopefully Ill be able to move downtown. I think its going to be a better environment," he continued. "That traffic kills you every day. When youre coming to the game, youre in traffic for like two hours every time."

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.